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- rītaha - Touch Compass's 25th Anniversary Celebration



Tue 15 Feb 2022, 06:00 pm - 10:30pm


Shed 10
Queens Wharf


Dance, Integrated Disability, Interarts Cross Discipline, Theatre, Visual Arts, Contemporary, Achievements


Wheelchair Access, Accessible Toilets, Mobility Parking



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Join Touch Compass as we celebrate our 25th Anniversary on 15 February 2022 in Tāmaki Makaurau for an exciting evening of groundbreaking performance honouring the past, present and future: /rītaha/.

/rītaha/ is a performing arts festival of digital works, tactile installations, improvised and choreographed dance, innovative theatre and thrilling aerial performance, featuring new work from the multi-award-winning artists Lusi Faiva, Rodney Bell and Suzanne Cowan, as well as showcasing many other fantastic established and emerging artists.

/rītaha/ aims to honour accessibility as well as art. The event will have sign language interpretation; live audio description through headsets; theatre performance incorporating audio description into the script; braille programs for a seated theatre piece; accessible signage; haptic elements; a quiet breakout space; gender neutral toilets; and to ensure everyone can access the event, /rītaha/ will be free/pay-what-you-can. Any income from /rītaha/ will be put towards developing our emerging artists programme in 2022.

Please note there will also be a food truck and a bar to keep people sustained over the course of the evening.

General Manager of Touch Compass, Jon Tamihere-Kemeys, says, "It's an exciting opportunity to reconnect the whānau of Touch Compass and give a platform for extraordinary artists."

Ka mua ka muri: Walking backwards into the future

/rītaha/ celebrates the past, heralding Touch Compass’s future, integrating multidisciplinary work into Touch Compass's programming, inviting disabled and non-disabled artists from other creative disciplines into the Touch Compass korowai.

Founding member Rodney Bell says “I was introduced to dance through Catherine Chappell - Founding Artistic Director, in the early 90s and become a founding performing artist for Touch Compass Dance Company. The experiences with Touch Compass always enhance the artist I am today, a movement voice I wouldn't have without Catherine and Touch Compass. I now envision to pass on the mana-power that I've learnt to emulate what Touch Compass has done for me. Touch Compass has captured and enhanced many artists who identify through the lens of disability and I’m so proud to be one of them. Ka Mau te Wehi Touch Compass.”

/rītaha/ means to lean on one's side, in te reo Māori

Rītaha describes the action disabled people take to be part of society. Touch Compass celebrates the true meaning of tangata mana whaikaha - people of power and presence pursuing strength. We break down physical and psychological barriers so all people who have a passion for the arts have a platform to express it, bringing together Pasifika, Māori and disability-led artistry.

Touch Compass would like to acknowledge the generous support of Creative New Zealand, Auckland Council and Auckland Live, without which this event would not be possible.



Thread Count
A textile art installation that explores the lived experiences of the disabled and chronically ill, Thread Count embeds their realities as poetry into a forest of soft sculpture, and invites the community to immerse themselves within a chorus of these stories.
The space is based heavily in the tactile and in sensation with large drops of fabric cascading down around it. The installation will be built almost entirely with fabric and thread, and sewn by hand, giving the attention and detail to every strand embroidered into the work.
Thread Count is for the Auckland community of disabled and chronically ill, to bring us together to meet in soft spaces which reflect our unique disabled experiences.

Holly Mercer - Performer / Sarah Cooper-Slee - Stitcher / Lizzie WInders - Producer

Knotty Entities
A site-specific rope installation work in which performance artists Suzanne Cowan and Emilia Rubio build a series of moving rope installations as a study of restriction, desire, connectivity and knotty entanglements.
Inspired by the art of Shibari, Japanese rope tying, Rubio and Cowan shape a series of rope architectures exploring the relationship between tension and release, folding, unfolding, verticality and horizontality, anchoring and suspension.

Suzanne Cowan, Emilia Rubio - Performers

**New Films
Bodies of Water
Bodies of Water is a short film that explores the experience of moving through the world differently. Delving into movement and medium, it embraces metaphor through imagery, sound and the poetics of the body. Through distortions, reflections and obstructions of water the piece examines how our environment dictates how we move, see, hear and feel.

Imogen Zino - Creator/actor

i-waenga is a collection of short films in which seven artists from Aotearoa and New Zealand respond to the theme of time and space from their own perspective of indigenous time, disabled time and everything in-between. Celebrating the connection between these perspectives, this work encourages new understandings of the body through sound installation, digital poetry and stop motion animation.

Tusiata Avia, Grace Taylor, Amy Blinkhorne, thecornycousin, Forest V Kapo, AJ FATA, AM Kanngieser - Creators / Producers

**Performance Installation
Dancing On My Own
An improvisation-based reaction to Covid-19 in which dancers will be creating their own work, responding to various provocations in real time, as the public watches the dancing take shape. Dancing On My Own will be simultaneously on-stage in the venue and live-streamed from around the world, accompanied by live music.
DOMO seeks to highlight the nature and effect of isolation. For many non-disabled people the lockdown was their first tangible experience with not being free to leave their homes as they wished, not being able to freely move about their own city. This is an experience commonly found in the disabled community, and DOMO explores how we can engage as a community when isolation is a fact of life, rather than an extraordinary, one-off, experience.

Dancers - Duncan Armstrong, Julie van Renen, Sierra Diprose, Yung Chen, Susanne Bentley (Brussels), Sumara Fraser (Wellington), and dancers from The GASP! Dance Collective (Dunedin) and Jolt Dance (Christchurch) / Lewis McCallum - DJ

**Staged performance
Thread Count Poems
Holly Mercer, creator of the Thread Count installation, will perform poems inspired from the Thread Count project live on stage.

Illegally Blind
A comedy theatre work written and performed by Susan Williams. A hilarious and relatable exploration of the daily difficulties of living at the intersection of disability, mental and physical illness, and queerness. Susan embraces her identity and shares her experiences with the audience with a great deal of grace and humour.

Susan Williams - Performer / Charlie Hann - Producer / Anastasia Matteini-Roberts - Director, Audio Describer

Hau Tipua : Extraordinary People
In stillness, we begin to learn to bring a loving attention to ourselves.
In movement, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.

Hau Tipua is a reinterpretation of Rodney Bell’s heralded, emotional work Hurihuri – striving to create a collective consciousness, Hau Tipua incorporates the concepts of whanaunatanga, reciprocity and circularity with elements of kapa haka, accompanied by live drumming.
He Raa ki Tua - better times are coming

Rodney Bell, Malia Johnston - Kaita Ringatohu/Artistic Directors / Harper Heta, Taniora Motutere, Cuba Haslam, Brydie Colquhoun, Rodney Bell - Ngā Kaitaa/Performers / Tom Scrase - Kaiwhakatangitangi/Drummer and Musician / Rose Philpott - Kaitaa/Akoako/Rehearsal Direction and co-choreographer

Taupou is a traditional (siva) Samoan dance with grace and power. This public performance piece investigates the symbolism and beauty standards within the role of the taupou. The taupou is the ceremonial hostess selected by the village chief to elevate the formal reception of visitors to a village or place. This is Lusi's piece, bringing her own unique style to a performance connects her to her Samoan side. Taupou was first performed as part of Cuba Dupa in 2021.

Lusi Faiva, Shanelle Lenehan - Dancers / Rose Kirkup - Director


**Installation Performance
Knotty Entities
A dance work by Suzanne Cowan and Emilia Rubio in which they integrate themselves into their rope work installation piece.

The Air Between Us
Multi-award winning disabled artist Rodney Bell and critically acclaimed choreographer Chloe Loftus present The Air Between Us, an aerial event that has been captivating audiences across Aotearoa. Spiralling into the air, this counterweighted duet celebrates equality and connection.
The Air Between Us explores a meeting point; between two bodies in space, in perfect equilibrium, crossing boundaries of culture, creativity and play. Arriving at this place from diverse backgrounds and experiences, Chloe and Rodney explore our innate capacity to exist in symbiotic harmony. Like planets encircling around each other, magnetically pulled by each other’s energy, this is an inimitable and mesmerising performance.

Rodney Bell, Chloe Loftus - Creators/Performers / Tym Miller-White - Rigger



Duncan Armstrong is a professional dancer, actor and musician from Wellington. In March 2018 his solo show at the Auckland Fringe Festival won the Best Performance award. He has been a professional dancer with Touch Compass Dance Company since 2015, having worked with Touch Compass since the late 1990s. His 2016 film Drumming Is Like Thunder was invited to international film festivals, which won Most Original Film in the Sit Down, Shut Up and Watch Festival in Australia.

Rodney Bell has been dancing professionally since 1995, having started out as a Touch Compass founding member. Rodney has performed both nationally and internationally – winning an Isadora Dance Award while dancing in the US with Axis Dance Company. Rodney was also the winner of the Attitude Artistic Achievement Award, in 2016, and the Arts Access Aotearoa Artistic Achievement Award in 2017, and in early 2021 performed an encore New Zealand tour of his life story, Meremere.

Susanne Bentley is a contemporary dancer, improvisor, teacher, coach and choreographer. She has been working with others and on her own projects in New Zealand and Europe since 1996. In NZ she worked with companies such as Touch Compass, Opera NZ and Weta Productions (Peter Jackson- film), and was a founding member of Curve Dance Collective. In 2000 she was a danceWEB scholarshipholder at ImPulsTanz (Vienna). Since then she has performed with companies such as SUPERAMAS, Cie. Fabienne Berger, Les Ballets C de la B, Maria Clara Villa Lobos, Poni, Bal Moderne a.o.

Brydie Colquhoun graduated from the NZ school of dance in 2012. Brydee has toured North America with Black Grace, and Australia and Singapore with Movement of the Human. She danced for two years at Footnote NZ dance company, was part of the premiere ‘Atamira’ a work choreographed by Kelly Nash, and the development in 2019 and 2020 for ’Ngā Wai’ choreographed by Sean McDonald. She has worked with Malia Johnston on various collaborations including, Meremere, HuriHuri and Rushes and has danced in seven seasons of the world of wearable art awards shows (WOW), and toured extensively throughout Aotearoa.

Suzanne Cowan is an artist/choreographer/researcher and has been an associate artist with Touch Compass since 1999. Her most recent work was performed at Auckland Arts Festival this year with collaborator, Rodney Bell, in 'He Owha Matarua’ : a site specific performance at Piha that explores ecology and colonisation. She has just completed an independent film, ’Slippage’ to be screened later this year which builds on her solo autobiographical show “Manifesto of A Good Cripple’ which she produced and performed at the Basement Theatre in 2019. 'Knotty Entities' stems from her PhD research into rope and bodies as an expanded corporeality. Her PhD in Dance Studies, completed at the University of Auckland in 2018, brings a post humanist perspective to dis/abilty and performance and draws together her research into dance, disability, queer studies and feminist new materialism.

Sierra Diprose is a professional freelance dancer, creative and movement educator who went to UNITEC New Zealand and graduated with a Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts majoring in Contemporary Dance. She has been in the industry for over 10 years and during that time has danced for renowned companies and choreographers including Malia Johnston, Sarah Foster-Sproull, Blackgrace, The New Zealand Dance Company and Touch Compass Dance Company. Sierra started The Creative Human Project in 2018 because she wanted to inspire and empower people to create, to embrace being unique, to give them confidence in themselves as an artist, and to be part of a community of movement artists.

Lusi Faiva, of Samoan and European descent, is an award-winning dancer and founding member of Touch Compass who has been performing for over 30 years. In 2020, Lusi won the Pacific Toa Award at the Creative New Zealand Arts Pasifika Awards and the Spirit of Attitude Award category at the 2020 Attitude Awards, and the Arts Access PAK’nSAVE Artistic Achievement Award 2021.

Sumara Fraser is a freelance dancer, who has danced with the Footnote Dance Company, Touch Compass, Wellington Intergrated Dance and Judith Fuge Dance School.

Cuba Haslam is an Auckland-based dancer who has performed in several significant works including RUSHES and Huruhuri with Movement of the Human and was a principal dancer during the ATC Development season 'The Navigators' for the work MOON. Cuba has extensive Kapa Haka experience, develops his own material and has a history in Hip Hop. He has danced with Black Grace and in 2020 Cuba was a performer in the International festival commissioned premiere of Hōkioi me te Vwōhali created by choreographer Taiaroa Royal from Ōkāreka Dance Company.

Harper Heta is a 12-year old dancer who has been part of the Touch Compass whānau for five years. She has danced in the Touch Compass classes, and performed in Movement of the Human's Hurihuri . She has performed with integra8 Hip Hop crew in Tempo, ImPaired, Just Dance Crazy and Starship Workshop. She has been a part of Te Kotahitanga O Kaukapakapa Kapa Haka since 2017. Her focus in 2020 has been her passion for Kapa Haka and learning Te Reo and prides herself in her leadership role as a Te Ao Maori Council leader at school.

Malia Johnston is the founder and creator of Movement of the Human performance company, and as a choreographer and performance director, she has created a significant repertoire over the past 20 years. A recipient of the Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship in 2013 Malia’s strong collaborative interests have seen her work with an incredibly diverse range of performers and arts organisations.

Shanelle Lenehan started dancing at the age of twenty, attending University of Auckland (Bachelor of Performing Arts) and has worked consistently and extensively since this time with various NZ companies including NZDC, World of Wearable Art, SKYCITY, The British Council, NZ Fashion Week as well as Tempo, Erupt, Short and Sweet, Edinburgh festivals and Performance Arcade. More recently she has worked with directors Michael Hurst, Tony Stimach, Mary Jane O’Reilly and Alexa Wilson in the shows ‘PleasureDome the Musical’ (M.Hurst), “City of 100 Lovers’ (T.Stimach), ‘Giselle’ (MJ.O’Reilly) and ’The Politics of Dreaming’ (A.Wilson).

Chloe Loftus is Italian born and New Zealand bred and emigrated to the UK in 1997 where she completed a BA (Hons) Dance Performance at Middlesex University. Alongside her extensive choreographic work, Chloe has worked internationally as a freelance dancer. She is co-director of Conscious Dance Aotearoa annual gathering.

Holly Mercer is an emerging disabled/chronically ill artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau. Holly has a passion for producing, and for arts festivals/events, spending two years as a producer for fringe theatre, short film and began writing her own work. Amongst her favourite work are two sell-out seasons of The Universe is Pretty Big and I'm Afraid of Sex (2018, 2019), producing Tom Clarke's most recent Auckland season of Perry (2020) in Akl Fringe and co-writing a pilot episode of a TV series Memory Boys (2020).

Taniora Motutere is a freelance dancer/choreographere trained in hip-hop, Kapa Haka & has performed at many Festivals around NZ. Taniora is a founding member & choreographer of Identity Dance Company winning 2 silver medals at Hip Hop International World Championships. His recent work includes the NZ Opera Production of “Brass Poppies”, “Tiki Taane Mahuta”, by Tanemahuta Gray, Malia Johnston’s “Moon”, “Wired” by Okareka, “Cudo” by Andrew Cesan, “Leeches”, by Aloalii Tapu. Taniora joined Movement Of The Human for the work Hurihuri presented at the Hamilton gardens arts festival in February 2021 where he was a central and featured performer.

Emilia Rubio is from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she was a Professional Dancer in contemporary dance for fourteen years, winning the Clarín Award for Best Dancer of the Year in Argentina - 2001 . Currently based in Auckland, Emilia joined Touch Compass as a dancer in 2008 and works as a performer and support tutor for the community class.
Dance/Movement Therapy is a big part of Emilia’s professional work and she has worked with Dance and Art Therapy NZ and currently with Māpura Studios leading as a Dance Therapist and created Authentic Living and Expressive Arts Therapy programmes for youth and adults. She’s currently working towards her PhD in Expressive Arts Therapy at University of Auckland.

Tom Scrase is a multi-instrumentalist with a foundation in classical piano, a forte in contemporary drums and ethnic percussion and a niche in specialist Taonga Pūoro performance (Maori traditional instruments), Tom is forging his way in a unique, compelling and dynamic direction. His commissioned works bring together the elements of his compositions with live Taonga Pūoro, keyboards and drums. Vocal and instrumental looping, rhythmic diversity and powerful compositions are all trademarks of Tom Scrase's performance within commissioned works and his solo projects.

Julie van Renen has been a dancer for Touch Compass since 2015 and co-teaches Tout Compass's Creative Class. She has been a freelance dancer and dance teacher since graduating from Unitec with a bachelor of performing and screen arts, majoring in contemporary dance, in 2003.

Susan WIlliams is an actor, improvisor, poet, pun champion and stand-up comedian, with twenty years of theatre experience. They were a finalist for the 2021 Arts Access Aotearoa PAK’nSAVE Artistic Achievement Award, and have appeared in more than 30 productions, including Celestial Nobodies (2020), Taking Off the Bird Suit (2014, 2016), and Blood Wedding (2010). 

Susan is functionally blind, Autistic, mentally ill, and a spoonie. They are passionate about inclusive, accessible theatre that pushes boundaries and changes perceptions. They are particularly proud of creating Galactapedia at NZIF, because it was fully accessible to Blind/VI audiences, and of working with Touch Compass to develop Illegally Blind.

Imogen Zino is a director, artist and design researcher based in Aotearoa. She creates unique and engaging experiences spanning from large scale multi-sensory sculptures to tiny objects. Her works are intuitive and tactile in nature, delving into the relationship between body, surface and environment. A background in digital, industrial, jewellery and textile design allows her to draw from a range of disciplines and create unique and engaging experiences.

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